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Old Northland race track jockey dorm could soon help the homeless
EDMONTON -- The jockey dormitory at the old Northlands horse racing track could soon be repurposed for the homeless and vulnerable.
The 36-unit building is being considered for temporary “bridge housing” as the city works to eliminate chronic homelessness in Edmonton.
“Bridge housing” is short-term accommodation for those waiting to be placed in a permanent home with social supports.
“It's got a kitchen, it's got the availability of providing food and then offices, it really lends itself to that,” said Susan McGee with Homeward Trust.
The dorms have already been cleaned, but would need $600,000 worth of renovations in order to be used as housing. City staff estimate a new building would cost upwards of $2.4 million.
The dormitory could house up to 78 people for one to three months at a time. The City of Edmonton estimates between 200 and 300 people would use the space each year. It would cost $1.2 million per year for Homeward Trust to operate.
“What we've known for a long time is it's much more expensive to the tax payer to not deal with this problem,” said Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters.
The dorm is on the Exhibition Lands, which is slated for redevelopment over the next three decades, meaning the housing would likely be temporary.
The city also identified modular housing as a possible solution for permanent supportive housing. Because such housing is factory built, the city says modular units can be produced 50 per cent faster than conventional construction methods.
The estimated cost for a 57-unit modular building with an elevator and kitchen would be around $9.5 million and could be assembled on-site within eight months of an order being made, according to the city.
Homeward Trust estimates 900 new supportive housing units are needed by 2024 in order to meet the city’s goal.
There are proposals to build more than 240 new units, but the price tag is $53 million.
City council has earmarked around $140 million for housing, hoping that money would leverage funding from other levels of governments.
“The province has not been interested in working with us on this, and that federal money is often dependent on provincial support,” said Walters.
If council approves the idea, city administration will seek out a “non-market housing provider” to lease the space to and begin public engagement. The dorms could be ready for use as soon as this fall.